In Defense of Pope Francis

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?
– Pope Francis

I come from a fairly unique family – my mom is Catholic, my dad is Hindu, my dad’s mother is Muslim (his father was Hindu), and the rest of my mom’s side of the family is Catholic. Despite me being the “accident” child, my parents came up with a compromise to balance the religious differences in our household – I would be baptized Catholic, but no beef or pork for me. And I’m proud to say that twenty-four years later, the latter part of that statement holds true (and I’m still Catholic as well).

Yet in recent years, I have distanced myself from the church and particularly the teachings of the Vatican. The primary institution for Catholicism has distorted the religion, twisted the words of the Bible, and misconstrued the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have labeled myself a being that follows the heart of Catholicism: love thy neighbor. Essentially, each and every individual is deserving of love and respect and dignity. Popes of the past may have condemned me to hell for saying such things, but my guess is that our new Pope Francis would not judge me so harshly.

As the 266th pope of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is returning from his first foreign trip and making headlines once again. A much more conciliatory individual than his predecessor, Pope Francis has consistently spoken openly about homosexuality. Today he held a news conference in which he stated he would not judge priests based on their sexual orientation. “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Exactly, Pope Francis. Who are we to judge? A person’s sexual orientation does not define his or her entire being. Their actions, how they carry themselves, how they treat others – that is what defines the lines between good and evil. I am a Catholic, and yes, I have religiously attended Sunday mass (although not recently, I admit), but I in no way, shape or form have or ever will believe homosexuality to be a sin, and I do not believe homosexual acts are sinful either.

My hope is that while progress for the Catholic Church has always come incredibly slow, Pope Francis is illuminating a shift in the institution’s tone and values. The disciplinary and rigidity are gradually fading and instead, an emphasis on love and equality is coming to the Catholic Church, and this liberal Catholic could not be happier about it. Pope Francis has even voiced that heaven can be home to atheists, too. Simply by doing good works and being a good person. And what’s even more thrilling is that this man is the leader of our Church – he has the power to influence others, implement change, and pave the way for some much needed renovations to the institution of Catholicism.

Although Pope Francis clearly appeals to a younger demographic of Catholics and non-Catholics alike, he has alienated older generations, specifically Catholic right-wingers. Those adhering to more conservative ideals forget how important it is to reach out and remain relevant and relatable to upcoming generations. What would the Catholic Church be without, well, Catholics? And myself along with other Gen Y-ers are growing up in a society where openness and equal rights are valued. And valued highly at that. If the Vatican wants to maintain its status, it needs the support of other Catholics, and what Pope Benedict XVI seemed to forget was the existence of younger generations of Catholics worldwide. Now that Pope Francis is our Holy Father, we are seeing the long inquired about compassion from the Catholic Church.

I am so pleased to see the leader of the Church living out the Gospel the way it is meant to be lived out – he is focusing on the roots of the religion, the heart of it, the essence of it. He is not using the religion for profitable gains, for control or power – he is using it to spread the love. Spread the peace.

Encouraging the youth of our day to be revolutionary, I can see that change is possible and change is happening, and Pope Francis is not even six months into his papacy. Yes, he still believes in many of the deep-rooted views of the Catholic Church, but he is more than willing to talk about the controversial issues and voice his opinion even if it isolates him from others inside the Vatican. I look forward to hearing more from Pope Francis and being a part of the “civilization of love.”

Peace and love. Share it. Spread it. Believe it. Live it.

Comments

  1. A most excellently written article! Your words have inspired a couple of questions in my mind:

    1. You’ve stated that you follow the heart of Catholicism: love thy neighbor. Do you think this is the heart of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and even Atheism (some of the most loving people I’ve ever met claimed to be Atheists)? And if so, might it be closer to the “heart” if we simple said we follow the heart of humanity?

    2. Is identification with a particular religious tradition more about identifying with a particular culture or with a particular belief? What I mean is, in meeting people of various faiths there seems to be those who claim to be a “Christian, Muslim, etc.” but in their view it is more of a statement about their culture or upbringing as being their identity, as opposed to a particular statement of faith. I hope this question makes sense. It sort of just spilled out of my head 🙂

    • Thank you so much!

      To your first question, I couldn’t agree more. So many of the world’s religions have the same fundamental values, which always makes me wonder when we have people stating one religion or one God is better than another. We are all made up of the same elements and are a part of the same world, so I love your phrase the “heart of humanity.”

      To your second question, I hope I’m answering it in terms of what you meant, but I think it all depends on the individual. I believe some people strongly believe in their faith system. My great aunt, for instance, would say Catholicism is a big part of her essence – she attends mass each and every day, and has completely given herself over to God and the teachings of the Catholic Church. Yet I also believe that some religious traditions are due to how an individual was raised as well as their cultural background. My own father will claim himself as Hindu, but he rarely partakes in any of the religious traditions. He raised me to simply be a good person and to be the best version of myself, and that is as great as any religion out there.

  2. Also, here’s what the Pope actually said about Atheists going to heaven: http://dylanrainwalker.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/what-pope-francis-actually-said-about-atheists-in-heaven/

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